Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tanjore Big Temple Part II

We will explore the outer parahara and the small shrines within the temple complex in the part II of our journey of through this Chola marvel “The Big temple”.

I found one interesting read while mining about this temple which I would like to share with the readers –

The basic unit of the temple's layout, says and expert was taken from the main deity, the linga itself. The inner sanctum, the height of the vimana, the intermediate space between the vimana and the cloistered enclosure (Sri Krishnan Tiruchuttru Maaligai), and the distance to the two gateways called Keralantakan Tiruvaasal and Rajarajan Tiruvaasal were all proportionate to the linga in a remarkable way. For instance, the height of the vimana is exactly twice the width of the outer base of the adhistana (plinth) of the sanctum. The expert says: “The mathematical calculations were advanced to a great extent at the time of Rajaraja Chola.”

The temple complex measures about 240 m east to west in length and about 120 m north to the south in breadth. Experts estimate that the vimana alone has utilised 17,000 cubic metres of masonry. The entire temple complex with its vast enclosure and two gateways amounted to almost 50,000 cubic metres, which is 130,000 tonnes of granite. There no big stone formation in 50km vicinity of the temple and the huge granite stones were brought from the Tiruchi area and the huge stone for the linga was brought from Tindivanam area.

Outer prahara of the temple, observe the nandi sculptures on the wall

Note the small hemispherical formation on the walls, such protrutions were used for interlocking

Inscriptions on the outer wall

There are inscriptions on the walls of the temple complex detailing Raja Raja's reign as well as that of his successors. They reveal that Raja Raja endowed a large number of villages, money and cattle to the temple for its maintenance, daily worship, festivals, singing of devotional songs and dancing. It even gives details of the 400 devadasis of the temple and their door numbers in the two streets near the temple. The administration setup and complete details are also available in the inscription.

Sculptures on the outer wall of the main sanctum

Tripurantaka episode , dont mistake it to be that of Budha(even the guide misguided me on this)

Angry elephant during a war

During the world war II, armed personnel were stationed inside the temple, here APF is Armed Police Force

After spending time around the vimana of the temple, i started towards the small shrines which were added during the later periods ...

Shrines in the temple complex

Ganapathi Shrine

This shrine was added to the temple complex during the period of Sarfoji II.

Subrahmanaya Shrine

Sevappa Nayak, the first of his dynasty who ruled Thanjavur, built the shrine for Murugan (Subrahamanya) as an integral part of the temple. This is a very elaboratory carved granite structure.

Goddess Sri Brihannayagi

This shrine is a later addition, built by the Pandya’s in the 13th century and the front mantapa was added by the Nayak’s.

Karuvurar shrine

Karvarur shrine is located at the rear portion of the temple complex. He was a yogin-alchemist and architect who played a key role in the design and construction of the temple. His famous works are Karuvoorar Vaidya Kaviyam 700, Karuvoorar Pala Thirattu.

Had to these shrines pretty quick as sun was going down and i had to shoot my snaps. Whatever 3 hours i could spend in the temple just seem to have given me a introduction to this wonder and looks like days are required to unravel and appreciate this architectural marvel.

Some quick facts which will help a traveller :

- The Big Temple is located in Tanjore very close to the Old busstand and railhead. Tanjore is well served by town bus services.

- Tanjore is well connected by road and rail. Railway station code - TJ.

- The nearest airport located in Tiruchi is 55kms away.

- Hotel accomodation of all classes is availabe in Tanjore and food is something to cherish once you are in the delta area.

- I would recommend a curious explorer to avoid the summer months as they turn out out to be extremely hot in this area.


  1. Thank you for a elaborate explanation. The next time I am in Tanjore, I would study the structure with the help of your records. I parents used to say stories of Raja Raja Chola, Kannagi etc this spur a keen interest but never materialised. Greatly appreciate your effort, I love reading them.

  2. Hi Daisy, thank you for the encouraging words. It helps in putting up more such experiences on to the web to help travelers...